My friend moved to Los Angeles, had gotten tired of calling him at work to ask if he had any weed, gave him a tip. “You should go see my doctor,” he said, “and get a prescription.”
“But I can’t get a prescription,” he said. “I’m not sick.”
“Sure you are,” he said. “Everyone’s sick.”
“What do I tell him?”
“Dude. Tell him anything. He doesn’t care.”
Until that moment, it hadn’t occurred to him that he could be a medical marijuana patient. Medical marijuana was for people with AIDS or glaucoma, for those dying in hospices, for old ladies with mouth-foaming dementia. Sure, he had high triglycerides and his jaw muscles sometimes cramped when he yawned too wide, but those just weren’t on the same level.
Nevertheless, the next day he found myself driving to a tony office building in Beverly Hills for his appointment with a medical marijuana doctor. Once he’d grasped the concept of limitless weed, available in stores, he’d made his appointment pretty quickly.
The office’s reception area lacked a receptionist. It was just an empty desk and a rubber plant. The doctor emerged from the other room, six feet tall, laid-back, and superfit. He had sandy blond hair parted in the middle, breath-strip-white teeth, and the tan of a man who doesn’t work long hours.
We went into his office, which was two chairs, an empty bookshelf, and a few framed degrees on the wall.
“A friend of mine referred me,” he said, and then he gave the friend’s name.
The doctor scratched his chin thoughtfully. “I think I might remember him,” he said. “I have so many patients.”
“Right,” he said. “So what did you do before you started doing…this?”
There was a brief, uncomfortable silence.
“So tell me why you’re here,” he said.
He took a breath.
“I’ve been on antidepressants for several years, and they’re not working anymore. Marijuana is the only thing that makes me feel better. You know, it’s not like I…”
“I believe you,” the doctor said.
Well, that was easy! Within five minutes He’d written the doctor a $150 check. He’d signed his medical marijuana permission and stamped it with his green cross-shaped seal. It was good for 12 months. “Recommend vaporizer & edible,” he wrote.
“Cool,” He said.
“You should send me your medical records eventually,” doctor said. “But there’s no rush.”
Marijuana has been the subject of endless legal battles since 1937, when the federal government
passed the Marihuana [sic] Tax Act. Despite a bizarre attempt during the Nixon administration to legalize it, weed has been particularly demonized during the “modern period,” even as it gains new popularity. So even though 12 states now have some form of medical marijuana legislation, there’s no way it will be federally legal in George W. Bush’s America. Federal law trumps state law, so technically the weed-soaked world in which I find myself is entirely illegal, but these laws are tacitly ignored by most local law enforcement.
Of all the states with laws on the books, California has arguably advanced the furthest. On November 5, 1996, the state passed Prop. 215, “to ensure that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes where that medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician.” Medical marijuana dispensaries—like candy shops that sell grass instead of Snickers—really took off in 2004, when the state legislature passed a bill that allowed for the legal procurement of pot.
It’s hard to tell exactly how many dispensaries there are in California; they’re opening and closing all the time, but the L.A. City Council placed a moratorium on new facilities last year, saying there were almost 200 in the county alone. It’s also impossible to know how many people are taking advantage of the law. The number’s assumed to be around 300,000, but there’s no centralized database, and patient information is, by law, confidential.
It’s not a perfect system. Many cops don’t respect the patient cards and will still slap you with a misdemeanor possession charge, even if they know it’ll get thrown out in court. But for a dedicated stoner like me, this alternative universe is paradise. I didn’t really smoke pot in high school or college, waiting until my mid-20s before developing a taste for the stuff. Therefore, I’m not as burned out as I could be, and I still have at least a few strong years left.
On His way home from the doctor’s that first day, He stopped at a dispensary in West Hollywood. Unlike many similar establishments, which operate in near-secrecy behind blackout-papered doors in mini-malls, this one occupied a double storefront on Santa Monica Boulevard, proudly displaying a marijuana leaf on its sign. This was West Hollywood, one of L.A.’s medical marijuana epicenters, full of real patients who actually needed the stuff. He went in, nose held high and legs aflutter, like Bugs Bunny drifting after a large, tempting carrot.
A good-looking chick took his ID and his certificate, made photocopies, and called his doctor to confirm his existence. In a snap, He was staring at a glass counter full of jars of sweet, high-octane chiba. Off to the side was a refrigerator containing brownies and cookies, tubs of weed butter, candies, and pot soda. Above the counter was a coffee-bar-type menu, with varietals color-coded by price.
“Oh, sweet Lord,” He said.
“Next customer!” He heard a voice say.
He looked up from His reverie to find himself facing a horribly deformed man. He had a hunchback. His arms were half the normal length, and his head was tiny, hovering almost disembodied under his concave chest. Whatever, He thought. Maybe he’s the world’s leading expert on marijuana.
“First-time patient,” He said.
He looked at him coldly.
“I’d like something up,” He said. “Nothing real stony or heavy. You know, a good sativa.”
There are two major strains of marijuana. Sativa tends to produce clearer, cerebral “head” highs, whereas indica produces the more stereotypical effects: drowsiness, loss of motor coordination, and the munchies. It’s good for people in chronic pain. Sativa is the strain of choice for “functional” stoners like me.
“How about this one?” he said, pulling out a jar that clearly said indica on the label. “There’s really no such thing as pure sativa anymore,” he said. “They’re all hybrids. This one has some sativa in it.”
“But…” He said.
“This is what you want,”
Well, he was the expert, so He bought an eighth, took it home, and, after putting his son to bed, went downstairs and loaded up his vaporizer.